Friday, February 18, 2011

Changing The Message Excerpt

I prosper from illusions that I work to defeat. The Myth of the Outside Hero pervades the consciousness of even the most advanced institutions. The Myth helps my program run. The Myth provides untold profits to legions of consultants, facilitators, and counselors. After a well run day or week retreat or even at the end of a successful group, a wonderful feeling swirls in the breeze. The group has gelled and performs well at anything. They perceive conflicts as opportunities for learning and growth. They are curious about the thoughts, feelings and beliefs of all members. All members rotate leadership depending on the demands of the task at hand. An infectious sense of humor dominates. When a member is having a difficult time, a ground swelling of support and empathy spontaneously rises. Hopefully you know and have experienced this feeling..

The quest and the challenge is to make that high degree of functionality a way of life. I don't want readers to get a sense that I am trying to create a Utopia. Highs and lows are a normal part of existence. The stages of group development do not flow in a smooth straight line. A circle, a spiral, or perhaps even a double helix, provide a more accurate model. Lessons come around repeatedly until we learn them well. When we learn that lesson, along comes a person who is learning the same lesson. How we help them learn defines our character. In my own life and in the lives of great people I have known, the theme of overcoming adversity weaves a common thread through all of their lives. In all my years of counseling and guiding I have not been able to remove the abuse and pain that has defined the existence of some of the children I have known. All I can do is give them a glimpse and an experience of a different way. What they do with it is up to them. In many spiritual traditions, choice is understood as a sacred element of existence. When we provide a glimpse of choice we fulfill the obligations of this life we've been given.

The field of counseling as a profession has only been around a little over a hundred years. I have had my Chemical Dependency Professional certificate for nearly ten years. If I didn't know much about history and the history of my culture I would think that that is just how things are. My questioning mind won't let me stop there. On the back of every car I have owned for the last ten years I put a bumper sticker that says "Question Authority." It sort of sticks out in a school parking lot. With my long hair and my earrings and tattoo, people often jump to assumptions that I am anti authority. What they don't know is that I always question my own authority also. I wasn't always a sensitive ponytail man. As I watch the growth of counseling as a profession and the proliferation of prescription drugs and their accompanying disorders, I cannot help but feel that we have gotten way off track somewhere.

I believe we create our own reality through the structures of our culture. Structures create behaviors. A little over five hundred years ago in this land called Turtle Island, we had no prisons, no alcoholism, no designer drugs, no methamphetamines and no Prozac. We had tobacco but in its pure form it was a medicine and it was used in prayer. This is not to say we were without problems but we did have more successful ways of dealing with those problems. In traditional village life whether it was Native American, Irish, or Chinese people created relationships that met multiple needs. The idea of a single person listening to everybody's problems all day would have seemed absurd. Different people gravitated toward each other based upon mutual respect and understanding. Grandfathers, Grandmothers and aunts and uncles provide guidance and ears for young people seeking guidance. In well functioning villages, leaders became recognized because they were constantly looking out for the welfare of all. A leader who failed to make sure that the children were fed quickly ceased to become a leader. When hard times came, everybody suffered and survived together. This did not happen because of strict laws or coercion. It happened because it made sense.
Listening to the radio this morning I heard about some new initiative to get every kid a laptop computer. I thought about starting my own initiative to get every kid their own mudpie, whoopie cushion and rubberband shooter. "A SUPERBALL IN EVERY DESK!" would be my campaign promise.

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